Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The New Era of Parenting

Before I start, I want to point out that I am aware of the fact that all of society does not function as a continuous whole. As I go into detail of my analysis of parenting in the last hundred years, it will primarily focus on trends, or even perceived trends (which I will do my best to clarify throughout), among large groups. Obviously nothing I have to say affects the Amish or other insular communities, nor does it imply there are no good parents raising good people today.

That said, there has been marked changes in parents over the last century. A hundred years ago, what was called “discipline” is now “child abuse.” In fact, I think raising a child in favorable 1911 conditions today would be considered neglectful, if only by virtue of the lack of medicine and modern amenities. Don’t worry, this isn’t a “people are too soft today” essay, I’m just pointing out that things were rough, and the people to come out of that time show the signs of a rough upbringing.

As things got better for the vast majority of people in the 50’s, parenting began to change. It was slow at first, so no one really noticed, but the beginning of new child-centric model of the American home began to emerge.

I attribute it initially to breakfast cereals. Kids began being exposed to advertising, and children went from being individuals whose parents made their consumer decisions to economic forces to be reckoned with. With the advent of children’s breakfast cereals advertised with cartoon character commercials and sugary puffs of bleached grain goodness, kids began making some of the choices.

And why not? The kid was eating it, why shouldn’t they decide what they want? I mean, clearly a six year old is mature and intelligent enough to make their own decisions on things like whether they want to become obese or diabetic.

Industries love this, because kids are stupid. If there’s one thing a salesman loves, it’s a stupid customer, and the dumber the better. The ideal customer is a drooling moron who walks around with a credit card in his hand, pantomiming a swiping motion. When marketers think of children, they imagine little dollar signs with runny noses.

And it’s a weird situation. Dad goes to work to sell cheap plastic crap to kids for a high mark-up, then he comes home and buys his kids a bunch of over-priced plastic crap with his paycheck.

So it slowly becomes all about the kids. By the 70’s, people are paying pretty close attention to kids. In fact they’re watching their kids so much… they’re finding problems that weren’t problems before. Little Billy won’t stop fidgeting in his uncomfortable wooden desk while the teacher drones on for hours about some war that happened 200 years ago… so Little Billy is given some speed, enabling him to focus like a laser.

While you had the drug counter culture of the 60’s, it was a small, young off-shoot. This group of freely fornicating freaks managed to get the next generation of parents to drug their kids in grade school, giving rise to the true era of addiction, the 80’s and 90’s. The rise of crack, heroin, ecstasy, and meth all coincide with a generation of drugged kids becoming adults with an appetite for an artificial high.

And now those kids are having children. Oddly enough, we’re ending up back where we started. It’s rough, not 1911 rough, but rougher than most people alive today can remember. The generation raising children now are some of the most drug-addled individuals this country has ever produced, having been doped up since they were able to form coherent memories (not that they ever did).

What’s more, my generation (the one having children now) is used to everything being about me, me, me. We were told since day one how fucking special we are, how we can do anything… without any thought of the fact that some things you just have to do because it’s your duty. If you’re a parent, you can’t do anything you want, and you aren’t supposed to be special anymore, your kid is.

Except, this isn’t how it turns out. The model of parenting, where the child is the center of the family universe, cannot be sustained. Once a child raised to believe that the world revolves around them has children, their kids will always take a backseat to the parent.

So, we have parents acting like children, going out and partying, while a generation of children gets neglected. I see so many stories about parents killing their kid or abandoning an infant, or children being left alone for far too long for their young age and being found dead. There are a dozen stories a week about kids home alone finding guns and shooting themselves.

And maybe I’m being too hard on drug users, because it’s not only them. Kids are dying of starvation while their parents are in the next room playing World of Warcraft. There’s also a whole new craze of home-schooling, always by the dumbest people with the most warped views (I can’t wait for those youngsters to be adults… I anticipate one Waco a week)

It’s insanity, really, because a lot of this comes from a desire to not abuse children, and yet the outcome seems to be a generation of coddled brat parents who neglect their offspring, all because of… breakfast cereals.

And that’s why my kid is getting oatmeal.

 [Visual representation of my ideal parenting style]

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